Welcome back to our weekly look at the happenings within the best division in hockey (yea I said it; wanna fight about it?) The past week has seen a few things happen within the Central, including the return of the league's highest-paid 3rd defenseman, a tough week for the former leaders, and a new team in first place. Let's get to it:
Weekly/Overall Record: 2-2-0/7-6-1, 15 points, 1st Central, 2nd Western Conference, 5th NHL
The Skinny: The big news this week is the return of Brian Campbell off the IR. Besides now presenting a bigger drain on their salary cap, he hopes to start picking up points to allow The Fifth Line, managed by yours truly, to assume its rightful place back atop the standings of the WIM Veterans Fantasy Hockey League. Oh, and he'll try to help the Hawks get back to a more consistent pace.
The Hawks had an interesting week. They beat the #1 team in the NHL (the Kings), then gave up 7 goals to the lowly Oilers, turned around and defeated the Wild, and then lost to the Rangers last night. That's the kind of consistency Hawks fans have been waiting for all season.
The Hawks currently lead the division by virtue of the fact they started their season in August and have played 176 more games than anyone else in the division. Take a look at the standings and you'll note that they have played 5 more games than the Blues and Wings, and only have a 1 and 2 point lead on both of them, respectively.
Marian Hossa is out for a couple of weeks with an "upper body injury", and in related news, Tomas Kopecky is being treated for his co-dependency issues.
Patrick Kane is still looking to break out of his offensive funk, but when his coaches told him to take more shots, he misunderstood and ended up missing practice after spending all night at the local Hooters.
Weekly/Overall Record: 2-0-0/6-1-2, 14 points, 2nd Central, 4th Western Conference, 6th NHL
The Skinny: The Blues had a good week, winning both of their games. However, one of those games was against the Thrashers, and I always thought that exhibition games against the AHL didn't count.
Jaroslav Halak pitched a shutout against the Predators this week, and I have nothing negative to say about that. He's good.
Jay McClement scored a hat trick against the Thrashers, prompting me to figure out who the hell Jay McClement actually is. Turns out that he's some sort of defensive specialist (according to St Louis Game Time), yet I've never seen him nominated. I guess when your team has the best defensive forward in the league, other guys just don't seem quite as good in comparison.
For the first time ever in the history of the universe, Red Wing and Blues fans are on the same side about something.
The Blues have 5 games in hand and are only 1 point behind the Blackhawks for first in the division. Normally I wouldn't put much faith in them making up that difference, but Halak gives them a shot (have I mentioned he's really good?)
Weekly/Overall Record: 0-2-0/5-2-3, 13 points, 4th Central, 6th Western Conference, 9th NHL
The Skinny: The Predators lost their first game in regulation when they were shutout by the Blues, then got blitzed by the Red Wings. A country song was written to lament the hard times the Predators have fallen on.
Their big signing of the off-season was Matthew Lombardi, but he's still out of the lineup with concussion issues. His absence leaves a big hole in a meager offense that is still led by Steve Sullivan.
Pekka Rinne is back and having a tough time lately. Any time you give up 8 goals in 2 games against divisional opponents, you're in trouble.
The local paper in Nashville thought that Pavel Datsyuk was a defenseman. Mike Babock was mad because he told the editor that in confidence, and the Tennessean is now hiring.
In good news for them, Marcel Goc and Ryan Suter look to be close to returning. Suter is a really important player for them as it should take some of the pressure off of Shea Weber.
Resident dipwad Jordin Tootoo was not suspended for his hit on the Blues' Carlo Coliacovo, but in a sign that karma is real, he missed the game against the Wings with an "upper body" injury.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Skinny: The Blue Jackets are above .500 through the first 10 games of the NHL season, and while they are 5th in the division, they're currently sitting in a playoff spot.
The BJs had an interesting week. They beat the Oilers in a shootout, but then got destroyed in every facet of the game against the Avs. I didn't watch either game, but the reports after the Colorado game were not pretty at all.
Chris Clark is your leading scorer on the Blue Jackets. He doesn't have a goal. He's got 6 assists in 10 games. Rick Nash has 5 points in the same time frame. This is reason number one why the Jackets are struggling.
Reading their blog, it's clear that they are expecting more from their top 2 lines and not getting the offensive production they were expecting. Now comes word that Kristian Huselius is going to miss with a high ankle sprain.
Goaltending controversy in Columbus? Mathieu Garon is 2-0 with a GAA of 1.61 and a save percentage of .938. One has to wonder how short the leash is for Steve Mason given that he hasn't shown any signs of emerging from his sophomore slump last year, and he's playing for a coach that has no real loyalties to either guy.
While 6-4 is not a bad record, there isn't a real buzz around this team, probably due to the fact that they are very up and down. I still view this team as a pretender in the division.
Columbus Blue JacketsWeekly/Overal Record: 1-1-0/6-4-0, 12 points, 5th Central, 7th Western Conference, 15th NHL